senior forward

Associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans has led the team through a challenging season, including the loss of senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

In late January, against a highly ranked Baylor team, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali drove to the basket and jumped near the hoop for an offensive rebound. On her way back down, she fell awkwardly, collapsing in excruciating pain as she suffered a serious knee injury. Immediately, associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans rushed to her on the court.

What came next was the hardest part.

Soon, Stalans had the task of telling Enemkpali her college basketball career was over. 

“It was heartbreaking for me to say that,” Stalans said. 

It was something Stalans had done before and will most likely do again in the future. As an athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, Stalans is in charge of the health and rehabilitation of the athletes. She evaluates them, tends to them and even delivers heartbreaking news — like she had to do with Enemkpali.

“It’s part of my job,” Stalans said. “I try to keep them calm and say, ‘You know, we’ll see what happens.’ It’s been stressful. When an athlete gets hurt, your biggest thing is getting them back on the court as soon as possible, but they just can’t go out there when they’re 50 percent.”

However, Stalans’ job also gives her the opportunity to deliver the good news when an athlete can return. 

In December, freshman guard Ariel Atkins was out indefinitely after an ankle injury. But on Jan. 16, Stalans announced Atkins could return to the court. This week, Atkins won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor for a third time this season. Stalans said it’s those moments when the athletes’ hard work in rehabilitation pays off that make her love her job. 

“I try to get them back better than they were before the injury,” Stalans said. “That is my challenge to myself — to make an athlete better than they were.”

Currently in her 14th season at Texas, Stalans has been with the women’s basketball team since 2009, longer than current head coach Karen Aston. Before that, Stalans spent nine years with the Texas soccer and women’s tennis teams after she arrived in Austin in 2000.

Texas has kept Stalans busy this season. Nine longhorns have missed at least one game because of injuries. But, fortunately for Texas, the injuries didn’t happen all at once. 

“I do feel like one got hurt, and then I get that person back, and then I’d lose another one the next week,” Stalans said.

Her main concern is getting her athletes ready for their next step, which in most cases is just getting ready for the next game.

“We got back at three this morning from West Virginia, so today was all about ice baths,” Stalans said. “I tell them to think of it like a spa.”

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty had a career night in Texas’ loss to Oklahoma State. Despite losing four consecutive Big 12 games, the Longhorns are starting to see improvement
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ 66-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday night stretched its time without a win in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to six years. 

The Cowgirls missed five of their first six shots, allowing for a quick 8-point lead for the Longhorns. But Texas’ struggles with turnovers continued, as it tallied 12 in the first half.

“We had the quick 10 points and then missed three layups in a row,” head coach Karen Aston said.

Aston quickly called a time out when Oklahoma State took its first lead of the game with a little over six minutes left in the first half. With seconds left before the break, Cowgirls senior forward Liz Donohoe made a 3-pointer before Texas freshman guard Brooke McCarty received the inbound pass and put in a 35-foot 3-pointer to shrink Oklahoma State’s halftime lead to 4 points.

“We didn’t have the sense of urgency we needed,” Aston said.

Texas would go on to lose its eighth Big 12 game of the season, and the Longhorns have not yet tallied a road win in conference play. Despite the loss, the Longhorns recorded 36 total rebounds.

Although associate head coach Travis Mays is desperate to start claiming wins again, he is pleased with the increased effort from the Longhorns.

“It’s just hard to see that your team is getting better when you don’t see the wins,” Mays said.

In the back half of the conference schedule, Texas will look to continue communication and adjust after losing senior forward Nneka Enemkpali, Big 12 rebound leader, to a knee injury.  

Texas will return to action against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday with the hope of finding its first Big 12 road win.

Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points in Saturday’s win over Kansas State. With the win, Texas ends its four-game losing streak and improves to 15-8 on the season.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

With senior forward Jonathan Holmes and junior guard Javan Felix both out with concussions, No. 25 Texas desperately needed someone to step up offensively in its game against Kansas State Saturday.

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor did just that, turning in one his best performances of the season to lead Texas to a 61–57 road victory over Kansas State and breaking the Longhorns’ four-game losing streak.

Taylor made a living near the basket, connecting on a series of layups and short jumpers on his way to a game-high 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Even when he wasn’t finishing from the field, Taylor succeeded in drawing foul after foul to get to the free throw line, where he went 11-of-15.

With 1:15 remaining in the game, the Longhorns led 57–50, but Kansas State tightened its deficit to two with under 30 seconds remaining behind a quick 7–2 run. Taylor missed two free throws with 0:25 remaining to give the Wildcats a final chance to tie or win the game, but senior forward Thomas Gipson couldn’t finish his late layup attempt, and Taylor redeemed himself with a pair of free throws to end the contest.

Given the temporary loss of Holmes and Felix, who had combined for 49 percent of the Longhorns’ 3-point makes coming into the game, Texas had to change its offensive approach. Instead of relying on shots from beyond the arc, as they had unsuccessfully done in recent contests, the Longhorns focused on getting shots near the basket.

Taylor was at the forefront of this offensive game plan, and he consistently weaved his way into the paint to get easy looks or draw fouls. Texas did an especially strong job of dominating inside in the first half, outscoring the Wildcats 14–2 in the paint before halftime. The Longhorns finished the game with a combination of eight dunks, layups and tip-ins.

Junior forward Connor Lammert and junior center Prince Ibeh both played major roles in the Texas victory. Lammert led the Longhorns with nine rebounds and went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc on his way to 12 points, and Ibeh contested shots near the basket all game and tied his season high with four blocks.

Behind Ibeh, Texas played far better on defense than it had during its four-game losing streak. In those four games, the Longhorns’ previously stout defense surrendered an eye-popping average of 78 points per game. On Saturday, the Wildcats struggled to find a rhythm against the Texas zone, shooting 31.9 percent while making just seven shots inside the 3-point arc.

With their victory, the Longhorns’ record improved to 15–8 on the season and 4–6 in conference play. They have a chance to continue making up ground in the Big 12 standings in the upcoming week, as they have a very winnable pair of home games coming up — against TCU on Wednesday and Texas Tech on Saturday.